11/22/2005

Biblical Confrontation: The Potential Blindspot of a Christian Hedonist

Confrontation is a Neglected Practice – Confrontation is a very neglected practice in the church (and I don't just mean by the elders or deacons of the church). It is especially unfortunate in America where so many people claim to be Christian. We should take their claim as free reign to confront them if they are living in a way which is inconsistent with their claim to know Christ. Youth who claim to know Christ but enjoy listening to music which glorifies violence, sexual immorality, and drug abuse. Mr. So and So who claims to be a Christian but calls people who look different than he does "niggers" (and the like) in a condescending and prideful way (or churches that are opposed to "blacks mixing with whites" in worship or marriage). That girlfriend of yours who claims to be a Christian but seems to totally disregard the apostles teachings on modesty. That guy who claims to be a Christian but is living with his girlfriend (i.e. sleeping with her). What is our responsibility in when we see such phenomenon? This is a highly relevant question for all Christians (at least in America), because this phenomena is not the exception in the American church—it's typical. When did we begin to excuse ourselves from this practice of confrontation?


Is This Type of Confron- tation Biblical? – By no means should we expect any Christian to be perfect, but there is a lifestyle clearly consistent with such a claim and one which is not (see I Cor 6:9 for example, or I John 2:4). It's impossible for those who accept the Bible as their authority to explain away all the verses which bind the Christian conscience about confronting professed believers who live in sin (Mt 18:15, 1 Cor 5:1-12, 2 Thes 3:6, Jn 8:11, Acts 8:20, 2 Thes 3:14, Titus 3:10-11). Sure church discipline is a lost practice in the local church today, but it doesn't have to be a lost practice in your life. Besides, the rank and file Christians outnumber the leaders. Rank and file believers like us have the ability to change the face of Christianity. Many of us are fighting to make it a revived practice. Many churches are now awakening to church discipline as a healthy mark of a local church (thanks in large part to Mark Dever)—but it's supposed to be the norm.

How Can You Say Confron- tation is For the Sake of Our Pleasure? – Confron- tation is not only biblical, it is necessary for the preserving of pleasure in at least two ways. 1) The spiritual pleasure of intimacy with Christ is proportionally dependant on the purity of the church, which seems to be Paul's main concern when he confronts people in his epistles, 2) the goal for the one being confronted and/or excommunicated is to see him restored if he is a true Christian (i.e. to the spiritual pleasure of intimacy with Christ which sin hinders and dilutes). Purity in the corporate body as well as in the individual entities magnifies the work and worth of Christ, glorifies God, and demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit—all of which is the ground of our pleasure. If only we were more committed to our own pleasure, the pleasure of the church, and the pleasure of those who need confronted, we would suffer a great deal of opposition and uncomfortableness to see to it that we confront our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are in sin, or could use a bit of gentle, loving, gracious confrontation about something.

P.S. - The pictures I posted have no real connection with the topic, but the new safety net on campus filters all pictures on google, so I couldn't get access to anything ideal.

11/01/2005

The Gospel: Good News for a Hedonist

Unbelievers: This is the gospel, which means "good news." It is the message of Jesus Christ and all his apostles. According to the scriptures, faith in this gospel saves the soul. Without belief in this gospel one cannot be "saved" (in the biblical sense), nor can one call themself a Christian. If you desire to maximize your pleasure and experience what God created you for--the everlasting quench of the thirst of your soul--here is where it all starts. For the sake of your own soul, I hope you will put your faith in the gospel!

Believers: Your comments are also welcome. This presentation may be in need of refinement (I would be eager to receive constructive criticism). Just remember that this is a gospel tract--not an abbreviated systematic theology (I don't explain everything or mention everything, but only that which I deem necessary to understanding the basic message of the gospel).

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I. The Doctrine of God - God Created the World and is distinct from it, and He is King Over the World, and Does as He wishes, He is Sovereign (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 47:7-8, 82:8, 115:3, 134:6, Proverbs 16:4-5, 9, 33, 19:21, 20:24, 21:1, Isaiah 52:7, Daniel 4:34-35, 5:21, Acts 17:25, Romans 13:1).

II. The Doctrine of Sin – Sin is rebellion against God, Adam was the first one to do this. When Adam sinned, he plunged himself and all mankind into a state of condemnation; and we, being his offspring, are like him and have been born with a sinful nature, doing that which God forbids because we do not Love God enough to obey Him, and we enjoy sinning against God more than obeying Him. Adam’s sin we call "The Fall," which is the reason for the current fallen state of humanity (Genesis 2 & 3, Romans 3:9-19, 5:12-21 cf. Romans Ch’s 1:18 – 3:20, See also John 3:19-20, Acts 17:26, I Corinthians 15:21-22).

III. The Doctrine of Man: Man’s Condition - The consequences of sin are death and suffering: the curse. This suffering takes many forms. The source of our suffering from which all sorrow flows is our relation to God after the fall of Adam. Rather than being children of God and having a loving relationship with Him (for which we were created and designed), we all have become Children of His Wrath and have therefore been cut off from any loving relationship to Him (Ephesians 2:1-3,11-12). In short, we are under condemnation, and we remain in this cursed state whether we realize it or not (John 3:36). If this condition does not change in an individual before death, he enters into a state of everlasting punishment at the just hands of an angry God (Heb 9:27, Revelation 20:11-15, John 5:28, 8:24).

IV. The Doctrine of Christ: God’s Intervention

A. God Remains A Just Judge

1) Punishment as Necessary For the Preservation of Justice – It would have been unrighteous and unjust for God to let rebels off the hook without any punishment for sin. God’s wrath for sin had to be satisfied, because God is Holy, Holy, Holy , unlike any judges of our day, he is perfectly righteous and therefore executes nothing less than perfect punishment for sin (Is 6:3). God, being just and sovereign over His Creation, could have reigned down wrath and consumed the earth altogether. That is, He could have solved the problem of sin by destroying all of creation and sending all of mankind to endure His wrath forever.

2) The Alternate Way of Satisfying Justice: Substitutionary Atonement – Rather than this, He has chosen to save the human race from utter destruction by sending someone else to bare the guilt and punishment for the sins of the earth (John 3:16). The necessary preservation of justice is the reason why Jesus had to become a substitute for the human race. It was necessary for God, being just and rightly angered by Sin, to punish all sins (Romans 3:21-26). The punishment was unavoidable, so God came to us in the form of man, which we know as Jesus Christ the Son of God, lived a perfect life in obedience to the Law of God, then took the punishment due for sins. In doing this, Jesus became our substitute in two ways: 1) he bore our sin (II Corinthians 5:21) and 2) became our righteousness (Romans 4:2-8, 5:17, Philippians 3:8-9). After He made it possible for humans to have their relationship to God restored, He rose from the dead, setting an example for the future resurrection, being raised in a glorified state He was taken up to heaven where He reigns at the right hand of the Father as King of the Earth (Ephesians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus has accomplished a state of reconciliation by a Substitutionary Righteousness and a Substitutionary Atonement. Together, these two works of Christ make it possible for God to remain just, yet also justify the pardon of sinful people.

B. God Justifies the Ungodly: The Double Exchange

1) He took the Hit for Us - Our sins were counted as His on the cross, and God’s wrath was then appeased for sin: this is Redemption, the paying of the price. The price was suffering of God's wrath, which Christ underwent on our behalf. It is as if Christ has pushed us out of the way of an oncoming train (the train of God's necessary justice) and took the hit of this train in our place.

2) He earned our Righteousness – At the very moment we put our faith in Christ, His righteousness is counted as ours so that we stand before God on the day of Judgment as though we had lived a perfect life, even as though we were clothed with His righteousness. This is called imputation: that God imputes to us His Own righteousness through Christ. This does not mean that God forgets that we have sinned against Him, rather, God accepts work of Christ as sufficient for our being accepted before Him.

V. The Doctrine of The Gospel: Redemption Applied

A. Salvation is Based on Grace – Because man is guilty of crimes against God, he does not deserve to be saved form God’s wrath, nor does he deserve any blessings from God. Thus salvation is by Grace (unmerited favor).

1) Ephesians 2:8-9 – "For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And that is not of yourselves, it is a gift from God; not of works, lest anyone should boast."

2) Grace as Undeserved Favor – Grace is undeserved favor. It is undeserved because no one deserves it. For anyone to receive anything less than eternal punishment for their sin is grace. It is favor because it saves us from God's just wrath and entitles us to a host of blessings (forgiveness, reconciliation with God, satisfaction of the soul, eternal joy, a resurrection body, etc.).

3) The Purpose of Grace: So That God Gets the Due Credit – Lest anyone should boast as though they had done anything to deserve the gift of salvation, God has ordained salvation only by means of grace. So that Christ gets all the due credit for salvation, it is through faith in Him and His work that one become saved. If it were not by grace, no one would have a chance at being saved (Romans 4:2,16).

B. The Word of God - God has chosen to apply his accomplished work of Redemption (the Cross) to human beings through the preaching of the gospel, that is, the good news about Christ as understood in the previous context I have laid out (Romans 1:16-17, James 1:18). He has therefore so blessed the preaching of the gospel (or reading of it) that the Holy Spirit grants faith and repentance through this divine message (Acts 11:18, 16:14, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29, II Timothy 2:24-25), and a radical change takes place in the human heart whereby love for sin is greatly weakened, and a love for God is born. Forgiveness is not for everyone, but only for those who experience this heart change, that is, those who repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ and believe the Gospel of Christ. Those who do experience this no longer remain in their fallen state as enemies of God, but are loved and adopted by God and are no longer bound to suffer the curse forever, though they continue to live in a cursed world (Romans 8:15-25).

C. True Faith and Its Fruits

1) Faith Is More Than Intellectual Assent – True faith is more than mere intellectual belief, but is the acceptance of both the work and person of Christ. It includes the desire to have a personal relationship with Christ, and to know God through Christ (John 13:20). It is not a mere intellectual activity, but it involves the heart, the will, and even the emotions. It is impossible to have an emotionless conversion experience because it is impossible to have an emotionless faith. Part of saving faith is believing that God is more rewarding than sin (Heb 11:6).

2) Repentance: A Crucial Aspect of Faith – This kind of faith includes repentance (II Cor 7:10). Repentance is a change of one's heart toward sin. When a person repents, this means that he/she changes his/her mind about their sin, recognizing it to be an offense toward God. Rather than having a friendly and comfortable mindset toward their sin, they begin to hate sin in their heart and become uncomfortable with respect to sins they know of in their life. They develop a mentality which is opposed to sin, and they develop a desire to turn from their sins; to fight their sinful impulses. In short, repentance is a change of heart towards one's sin.

3) The Gift and Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Through the preaching (or sharing, or reading) of the Gospel message, those who believe receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who posses them in a glorious way, so that they seem to be always guided in righteousness as a result (Romans 8:14-16). The Scripture teaches that those who come to know God through Christ by faith in the Gospel begin to change the way they live, paying utmost respect to the commandments of God out of their love for Him and desire to please Him (I John 2:3-6). Those who believe and receive the Holy Spirit do not become perfect (I John 1:8), but all people who come to faith in Christ are changed by the Spirit of God within them (I Corinthians 5:17).

4) The Essence of Conversion – Conversion is a change from one thing to another. Any time a person is saved, they undergo a conversion experience. True Christian conversion experience involves a change from being indifferent to God and loving sin, to being in love with God and hating sin. The essence of the change of conversion could be described as a change of the human heart in which the believers main source of joy, peace, and fulfillment in life is now found in God rather than in sin (Galatians 5:16-25). It is a change of desires and affections. Those who are saved are saved from the domination of their sinful desires. They develop new desires for God which exceed the power of their sinful desires. They learn to delight in the things of God, they learn that true joy is found in glorifying God (I Cor 10:31). They develop deep affections for God and an intimate way of relating to Him. The Good News is good because God is more satisfying, more pleasurable, more rewarding than the satisfactions, pleasures, and rewards of sin.

VI. The Doctrines of Christianity: Overview of Our Beliefs

A. The Scriptures - The Bible (Old and New Testament Cannon) as Inspired by God, Thus Authoritative and without error.
B. The Trinity – God is One in Essence , but Three in Persons: Jesus is Deity, His Father is Deity, The Holy Spirit is Deity
C. The Sovereignty of God – God is the King of the Earth, All things belong to Him, and He does as He pleases with respect to His Creation, nothing happens without His ordination.
D. The Fall – All Human Beings are Born with a Sinful Nature because we are descendant from Adam, and this is why the world is cursed with suffering and death.
E. The Judgment – All souls will be Judged According to their Deeds on Earth
F. Hell – The eternal damnation of those who are never saved through the gospel, and thus remain in their Fallen State.
G. Exclusivity – Christ is the only way to escape God's curse on sin and bring humans into a loving relationship with God. That is, faith in Christ is the only way to be saved.
H. The Resurrection – All Bodies will be Restored anew and Raised for the Judgment and either everlasting damnation or everlasting reward.
I. Heaven – Heaven is the eternal reward and blessedness for those who repent of sin and put their faith in Christ.
J. Love For God and Others – Love for God is the most important part of the Christian life and love for others is the second most important of all commands. Love for God is the foundation for loving people.
K. Love For Christ – Because Christ is God incarnate (the person of God untied to a human body) and therefore the clearest expression/revelation of the person of God, love for Christ is most central to loving God.
L. The Glory of God - The glory of God is the end for which the world was created. Man's purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.